Many of us growing up online have heard the famous line, “Gossip Girl here, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite.” Some of us have even wished to experience the drama and chaos that is Gossip Girl. But what would you do if suddenly Gossip Girl was no longer exposing the just wealthy elite of New York, but rather the students, faculty and staff of UofSC? Would you add fuel to the fire and send in gossip to be viewed by peers? Or would you rather be the Gossip Girl, front and center with the rumors, scandals and inside scoop of your community? Any fantasy can be accomplished with the resurgence of the app YikYak: an anonymous posting app that connects you with your local community.
One of the most enticing aspects of the app is the anonymity the user has while posting and commenting. With this protection from backlash, users are able to post anything from genuine questions to juicy gossip. With easily passable community guidelines, or “guardrails," posting whatever you want on Yik Yak is easy, just censor a few characters.
With this mentality, some students follow one natural course: exposés. On YikYak, you have 200 characters to write the most scathing text imaginable, damaging someone’s reputation or even humbling someone who dares to overstep. Spreading gossip is made simple, by reposting Yaks to your story, commenting, upvoting and showing Yaks to your friends.
Another feature of the app is herds. Your herd is formed by combining the users within a five-mile radius and sharing content relevant to your area. This helps curate unique content specific to your location and environment, making it easier to understand current news in your community.
Some of these exposés include mentioning particularly disruptive characters in your class, keeping track of low-rated professors, rude or unapproachable staff members or exposing anyone and anything in between. While it is also known that some stories featured are false, these kinds of allegations can still impact any career or reputation. While newer posts to date are humorous and consist of people making jabs at their friends, there's still time and opportunity for vindictive damage to take place. Regardless of whether these posts are true or not, with enough traction, they can be featured on a variety of pages including the Local Top Yaks, Local Hot Yaks, Nationwide Top Yaks and Nationwide Hot Yaks. Any feature of negative posts to these pages can sink a once shiny reputation and make life miserable for the intended party.
In relation to the University of South Carolina, Greek life, public figures, parking and commentary about the weather have made up the majority of posts in the past few weeks. However, there has been a rising trend of people posting questions along the lines of “Who’s your least favorite person on campus?” Comments have been flooded with not only first and last names of students, but also stories as to why these people were chosen. While the content of the posts started out focusing primarily on these topics, as the year has progressed, the focus has shifted to new topics. Most recently, the topics discussed have transitioned away from the heat and public figures, and instead turned to commentary about football, parents weekend and college burnout. These topics were seen with posts like “We can still drink to the fact Clemson lost,” “My parents finally witnessed hung over me I feel like this should count as a developmental milestone',' and “the only thing motivating me to get my work done is going to cotton gin tmrw….”.
This growing trend of name-calling and the posting of unrestricted intrusive personal thoughts could be the start of YikYak’s Gossip Girl era.
As of now, media is not allowed to be posted, but it seems like a likely step in order to keep the app alive. If this new feature is added, any accusations will go from hearsay to innocents proven guilty with photographic evidence. This can lead to a rise of student conduct cases, honor board hearings within organizations and even potential expulsion. This addition can also be used to tag campus celebrities locations in order to keep tabs on where certain people are, whether it’s the President of the University, the Head Coach of the football team or student athletes.
As a disclaimer and a final note, despite what has been said thus far in the article, YikYak is not the villain. They are simply the host for this new age to exist. The drama and chaos seen within the app is created by the users of their own volition, and their desire to spread rumors and start drama. If a Yak is downvoted by the herd enough times, whether it is offensive or just generally disliked, the app will take down the post. Just because there is negativity on YikYak doesn’t mean there isn’t also lighthearted or casual commentary. With that said, go forth and do good, or go forth and do some damage. The choice is yours.